Bone on Bone

I was recently introduced to Louise Erdrich, no not like in person.  If I’d met her in person, I would have disappeared into a big cloud of nerves.  She’s a Native American novelist and poet.  She owns her own bookstore.  Oh, and in her free time she devotes her attention to restoring tribal lands and languages.  She’s a 10 on the cool scale.

The other day I read her poem, Advice to Myself, and in the same way that I had to-absolutely had to-emulate George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From, the first time I read it, I found myself compelled to write my own poem using Louise Erdrich’s beautiful and raw text as a skeleton.  The link is an interview with Louise Erdrich.  In the interview she reads Advice to Myself at around 21:40.  Do yourself a favor and set aside time to watch the interview.  You may not agree with everything she says.  I know I don’t.  But the discussion of her writing and her writing process is worth your time and then some.

Here’s the poem I wrote after being enchanted by Advice to Myself.

Bone On Bone

by Alicia McCauley

Leave the laundry.

Let the lonely socks find their own mates to curl up with,

in between the static legs of pants and heartless shirt chests.

Scrape the lint from the trap

and throw the handful of downy gray into the trash.

Sweep the lye that bleeds from the garage floor

and dump its snowy residue

in with the lint

and other discards.

Pay no attention to the wisps of winter slipping beneath the door.

Let the cold have its way,

freezing the earth

that hibernates and exhales in sleep,

rattling barren tree branches on your windows.

Talk to the trees.

Tell them they are welcome

to come inside

where warmth breathes and steams up the windows

and picture frames.

Don’t bother keeping all the pictures straight on the wall.

Let the faces of your beloveds cock their heads

in bemused wonder.

Don’t worry about the settling dust on the shelves

or about the dishes abandoned in the sink.

Don’t worry at all.



For the symphony of your life

in the treble of your husband’s snores

and the whirring flutes of bicycle wheels and wind in your hair.

Feel the percussive heart in your chest

bouncing off your ribcage,

pulsing into your fingers as they skitter

across vowels and consonants

becoming words

becoming paragraphs


the story of your life.

In this fiery rush where creativity intersects destiny,

Write with flame,

Write with honesty,

Until your words are stripped down to sinewy truth.

Bone on bone.

Be unflinching in your pursuit of the word

that imparts your spirit with joy.

Be relentless in chasing hope rising

on the wings of a Phoenix.

Pay no attention to the shoes piled by the door.

Slip outside

barefoot with your camera around your neck.

Feel the cool, earthen night between your toes.

Surprise the trees in their midnight dance,

spotlit by the face of the moon.

And when your smile chatters

and frost gathers at your nostrils,

return to the heat of the house

and to the laundry basket

waiting with socks to warm your feet.

Slip your heart into the chest of one of your husband’s old shirts.

Brush your fingers along the cheeks of loved ones

as you float past them in the hallway on your way to bed.

Listen for the lullaby of rest rising and falling from your beloved.

Curl into him,

letting your heavy eyelids turn the page on the day.

Fall Back

The trees drum my window pane.
The rain taps Morse code on my roof,
A storm is whispering its secrets to me,
Reminding me to fall back, fall back,
Fall back to sleep for a blessed extra hour.

The clock’s red numbers blush at 4:36am,
Everything in the house is hushed,
Against the sound of the storm and your snores filling the air between us,
I close my eyes and fall back, fall back
Fall back into your arms.

You stir ever so slightly and I press into you,
Watching your eyelids flutter as dreams play in your mind.
I know the topography of your face like I know myself.
I kiss the scar beside your eye and fall back, fall back,
Fall back through decades of memories with you.

I watch ruby minutes flicker by,
You wake and tease me about stealing all the covers.
We giggle and wrap up in arms and legs and blankets,
I lie awake with gratitude for this extra hour to fall back, fall back,
Fall back in love with you all over again.

Photo by Martin Kenny of the gorgeous photo blog

Poetry From Little Lips

Children have such a way with words, pairing combinations that just pulse off the page.  Their little lips seem to spill poetry.  I’m lucky enough to be a fly on the wall when they mish mash those beautiful combinations.

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye collected some of the things her son said and reads his words here in her poem “One Boy Told Me”.

You are, no doubt, scrambling for a piece of paper this very second to write down the wonders that have slipped through the lips of your son, daughter, niece, nephew, granddaughter, grandson, the kid next door, or even that funny kid in front of you in line at the post office.  Do it, grab a pencil and write it down.  Quick, before your grown-up brain forgets and instead fills up with mundane things like the grocery list.  And then share your lines or a link to them in the comments section please.  It’s National Poetry Month and we all deserve a little more poetry in our lives.

Thinking Spring

April is National Poetry Month and although the first day of Spring was nearly a month ago, it feels like Spring is just now arriving.  So here’s a little poem to celebrate the fact that maybe, just maybe winter is finally giving way.

Thinking Spring

The sign outside my front door reads ‘Think Spring’.

In the breath of summer, that leaves me cracked and dry,

And in the fall, when bouquets of colors fall at my feet,

But especially when the cold song of winter whistles through the crack of my front door,

I’m thinking about all that is secreted away, tucked in and waiting to bloom,

All that is just waiting for wind’s warm whisper that Spring has arrived.


The Box

Last week one of my little ones brought in a box and unpacked his most precious things to share with the class.

The Box

He sits in front of the class,

Feet dangling, kicking the legs of the chair.

He is never still,

Even in his sitting, there is motion.


Today is his day to bring special things.

He holds a hat box covered in faded denim,

The edges smudged with soot.

This is all I have.  It’s one of my only things that didn’t burn.

Ever so carefully he lifts the round lid

He pulls out a blue onesie,

Laying it in his open palm, rocking it back and forth in his arms

This is how my dad used to hold me.

He dangles his hospital bracelet,

Wraps it around two of his fingers,

Can you believe I was ever that little?

Yes, sweet boy, I believe you were once that small.


He lifts out a stack of greeting cards,

Searching through them until he finds the one his grandmother wrote,

Her words welcoming him to the world.

Will you help me read this one?  It’s my favorite.


He scoots over on the chair and I sit beside him.

As the first words leave my lips, he ducks his head under my arm and reads.

He knows every word by heart,

Each period a tap of his toes.


He stacks the cards into the box, folds the onesie on top

And tucks the bracelet in the sleeve before replacing the lid.

The box sits atop his desk the rest of the day.

I catch him fingering the fabric, smiling as he lifts the lid every now and again.


I can’t help but think of how we come to the earth with nothing,

And leave with nothing,

Yet we leave with so much more.

In the unpacking of his box, this little boy filled mine.

Haiku for You

Today because it’s Friday,

And because I’ve spent the last couple of days helping my little ones dip their toes in Haiku,

And because I love poets who don’t always take life so seriously,

And because you deserve a little more poetry in your life,

And because I can’t get enough of Poetry Everywhere,

Here’s a little Haiku snack to nibble on:

Day in a Sentence Release: The Beauty We Love

Finally, finally Day In A Sentence release day is here!  What a joy to gather sentences about the beauty you love.  I savored each one as I tucked it away for today.

Before I release your words, I’ve got to tell you about lanterns.  Yes, lanterns.

During Chinese New Year the city of Pingxi, Taiwan hosts the Heavenly Lantern Festival, where thousands upon thousands of paper lanterns are released into the night sky.

Throughout history, paper lanterns have been used for many purposes including to send messages over enemy lines in times of war.

But the lanterns released on the night of the festival serve a much different purpose.  Each lantern is scribed with prayers, prayers to be carried to God, that He might answer them and bestow His favor.

My heart thrills at the thought of writing and releasing prayers.

As I sit here reading your sentences one last time, I can’t help but think of the lanterns.  I’m hopeful that by releasing our words, the beauty we wrote about will appear in abundance this new year.

Here are this week’s sentences (Apologies to Amanda C., Kim K. and Deborah C. for not including a hyperlink because I lost your site addresses in the process of pasting the sentences.):

“This has been a difficult week in our household – transitioning back into routine after two weeks home with Mom and Dad, really took a toll on our toddlers. This week’s DIAS helped remind me that they are the beauties we love, and must be our priority pupils, because being teachers parents is what we do.” -Amanda C.

‘”Don’t start reading… let the beauty we love be what we do…” Tomorrow I promise to wake up and grab my guitar and play into the day.”  –Bonnie K.

“I can’t take credit for ‘You’ve got to be a friend to have a friend,’ but there is beauty in maintaining old and forging new friendships; I reached out to a new friend today.” –Amiable Amiable

“Poetry is the beauty I love and this week it came to me wrapped in the secure arms of my husband, in the sweet tang of blackberries, and in the light of the elusive winter sun.” -Alicia M.

“I love to sit and draw funny, silly cartoons. Some have suns and others have moons. Some are gaffes but most do get a few laughs.” –Carl D.

“The beauty I love is often found through the lens of my camera. Today I captured the lustrous pink of the setting sun reflected in the river, filtered through the barren branches of winter trees.” –Lynn J.

“The beauty of nature fills my heart; it overflows and shines out in love to others.” –Heidi R.

“I woke to the frosty foggy morning, with salutations to the sun that I knew to still be in the sky, only slightly hidden away… as sometimes my joy may be.”  -Kim K.

“I dig in the dirt of my soul, of my garden, the black half moons beneath my fingernails reminding: hard work purifies spirit & body; and my tears became the rain for the seed of hope I planted today.” –cr8df8

“I was watching snowflakes fall as I walked my dog early in the morning the other day — in the hours before the neighborhood arose — and the quiet of the moment was so powerful and so beautiful, I wanted to wrap it up my scarf and take it with me for the day.” –Kevin H.

“In those lush pre-dawn hours, when, in between, my being remembers that the path of attraction knows the way, without haste to get lost in busy-ness, though good work may be true, without need for company, though that could be the sun’s reflection, too, but mostly in trust remembering to release into the beauty of love.” –Joseph M.

“We can behold beauty, but it cannot be held so today I attempted to pass it along, through the comforting warmth of a kind smile and a reassuring touch, the uplifting joy of a shared giggle, the simulated grace of letting go.”-Hippie C.

“The beauty that I have come to love is the every day imperfection of those we love, which in its flawed unraveling, reveals the soul.” -Deborah C.

Now that we’ve set our words free, watch this clip of the Heavenly Lantern Festival and then add it to your list of things to do before you die.  Oh and be sure to join this week’s Day in a Sentence over here.